An open letter to Paul Martin

By Вen Li

Dear Paul Martin,

I attended your rally at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre last Friday. Though your 10 minute speech was late by an hour, and your security kept a few hundred supporters and myself locked up in the cramped Henry G. D. Chow Auditorium, tardiness due to more important priorities than your potential and converted supporters is understandable.

As Julia Turnbull introduced some Liberal candidates from Calgary and surrounds, I was presently surprised by your inclusion of an Asian Indian and a First Nations Chief among your cadre of stereotypical white male politicians. Maybe a federal party would finally run a slate of culturally representative candidates.

But when your turn to speak came, you remarked how great it was to greet your supporters in “this cultural centre” we have in Calgary.

This cultural centre. We have. In Calgary.

Hopefully, you simply forgot that it was the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, even though you had to walk by elaborate Chinese columns and signage to get to your podium. Hopefully, you didn’t just choose not to mention the variety of cultural centre you were in, in order to match your speech to your non-descript backdrop. Hopefully, you weren’t thinking that being seen in the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre would be an embarrassment for you elsewhere in the country.

Later during your speech, I remarked to some colleagues, fellow politicos from the University of Calgary, “Do you realize that any one of us could sink his campaign right now by yelling ‘Where is your Chinese candidate?’”

Perhaps, truthfully, no one other than the present candidates is interested in running for your party, for some reason. But the commentators won’t care about that detail when looking for blood.

I hear that this ethnic minority has a lot of votes in Ontario, but who cares about Ontario here, where every politician can just shamelessly dawn a Calgary Flames jersey to get a cheer from the crowd?

In not holding you accountable to your deeds last Friday, I came to the conclusion that this election should be about the real issues all Canadians care about, and not attempts by politicians to draw attention to themselves.

To simply roll into town, set up a big-L Liberal banner that obscures any evidence that the individuals in this community generously agreed to host your rally in the Henry G. D. Chow Auditorium, and to pack everything up and leave just moments after the end of your speech is unacceptable. Why did you not simply fit more people in the near-by Telus Convention Centre, any one of the hotels down the street, or anywhere? Instead, you chose to make your supporters and those others interested in your campaign wait, cramped, alone.

I won’t pretend to understand your decision to neglect so many underrepresented voters at one time–new immigrants, various ethnic minorities, the elderly, among others who thought you important enough to grant an audience. I can only hope that you learn from this experience, if we choose to have you lead us in the future.

Please don’t make me regret my decision to remain silent.

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